Sodium dodecyl sulfate (NaDodSO4)--polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and gel filtration chromatography of protein--NaDodSO4 complexes are frequently used to characterize collagen-like polypeptide components in mixtures obtained from extracts of basement membranes. However, electrophoresis yields anomalously high apparent molecular weights for collagenous polypeptides when typical globular proteins are used as molecular weight standards, and the use of gel filtration chromatography for this purpose was suspect because Nozaki et al. [Nozaki, Y., Schechter, N. M., Reynolds, J. A., & Tanford, C. (1976) Biochemistry 15, 3884--3890] found that asymmetric particles, including NaDodSO4--protein complexes, coeluted with native globular proteins of lower Stokes radius, when Sepharose 4B was used. To understand these effects and to improve the characterization of collagenous polypeptides, we investigated the secondary structure of NaDodSO4--collagen complexes with the use of circular dichroism, measured the NaDodSO4 content, studied the dependence of electrophoretic mobility on gel concentration, and extended work on gel filtration by use of a more porous gel, Sepharose CL-4B. We found that the anomalous behavior of collagen chains on NaDodSO4--polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis is due in large part to treatment of data and that the method can be used to determine rather accurate values for the number of residues per polypeptide chain. Our gel filtration results indicated that reliable molecular weights can be obtained when Sepharose CL-4B is used. These methods can be applied equally well to collagenous and noncollagenous polypeptides.